Category Archives: Conventional Wisdom – How I hate you

It’s Easier For You – 10 Ways to Break Bad Habits

It’s funny, whenever someone has success in terms of changing their lifestyle around to be healthier, people who haven’t made the change will tell them…

“Well it is easier for you.”

Can I just say right now…”HOW COULD IT BE EASIER!?!?!”

Any time you break a habit, any time you make a lifestyle change it isn’t going to be easier.

I mean think about all the changes you’ve had to make to your habits over the years. Where any of them really EASY?

I can tell you your parents didn’t think potty training you was easy. Or getting you to stop carrying around the blanket EVERYWHERE you went was easy.

I can tell you my Mom didn’t have an easy time of breaking me of my thumb-sucking habit. She had to coax and reward and take it step by step. And sometimes I had good days and sometimes I had bad days. But slowly the good days won out and I stopped (My desire for the present at the end became greater than my desire to suck my thumb!).

But even something as simple as breaking the habit of sucking my thumb wasn’t easy.

No lifestyle changes are ever easy for anyone.

Habits are hard to break.

There is no magic pill – no key to instant success.

No one is really more gifted when it comes to making a change.

It is all hard work and determination. It is determination that supersedes any other immediate desires.

Changing to a healthy lifestyle isn’t ever easy, especially when you are making the actual CHANGE.

In fact most people will tell you about all the sacrifices they had to make and all the times they wanted to give up BEFORE the change became habit.

So let’s face it. Change is never easy. There is no secret out there or gifted person that didn’t struggle when breaking bad habits.

Honestly, I think that people say “It was easier for you” to let themselves off the hook and to try to make you feel a little less proud of your accomplishment.

It isn’t really that they thought it was easier for you….They are just excusing their own failures.

Sorry, but really, if you think about it, you know this is true.

Because we all know change isn’t easy.

The key is just setting your mind to the change and  deciding that nothing is going to derail you.

I write a lot about having a powerful WHY when it comes to creating change.

That powerful reason WHY is what makes your change seem so seamless, so “easy,” to other people.

When you want something bad enough, you are going to make it happen.

Every day won’t be perfect. There will be “slip ups” and missed workouts and cheat meals, but perfection isn’t necessary.

Small forward progress over the days, weeks, months is what will add up. Staying focused on your end goal is what will matter.

Having a powerful WHY, knowing a really motivational, emotional reason why you want to accomplish something, is what will keep you motivated, but it is only a small part of success.

Here is what I tell my clients that helps them succeed even when the going gets tough.

1. Write down your WHY – Write down a powerful, emotional reason why you want something. Just saying “I want to lose 10lbs” or “I want to look good in my bikini this summer” probably isn’t going to be enough. Tap into your emotions. Dig for something important that will not only motivate you to get started, but will keep you motivated when things get hard (which they probably will).

Living seems like decent motivation….

2. Write down a WHEN – Set a deadline. Set multiple deadlines in fact. Set short-term goals with dates when they have to be completed. Deadlines are motivating. And when they are written down they are more solid and we are way more likely to want to achieve them because we can’t weasel out of them. Make the deadline important. Don’t just choose an arbitrary date. Yes, if you are making a lifestyle change, you want it to be FOREVER, but you have to have specific dates when certain things will be accomplished. Because trust me….people do better with END DATES.

3. PLAN, PLAN and oh yea….PLAN – You don’t have to write out exactly what you are going to eat and when you are going to eat it. You don’t have to map out your workouts and the weights you are going to use for the next year, but PLAN AHEAD. We each have triggers that set off old bad habits. Know those triggers and lay out a plan with how you are going to deal with them. For instance, ladies…many of us crave crap around our periods. Plan out how you are going to deal with that. Do you have “cleaner” treats available? Do you plan in a couple cheats then? What is your plan of action? Know what sets you off and plan for it. (Sorry dudes reading this). Developing new habits is about breaking the old ones and a big part of that is PLANNING AHEAD so when the moment arises we know how we are going to change our old patterns. Because trust me, trying to fight against old desires in the moment when you have no plan of attack isn’t easy.

4. Know yourself – Take a look at your current habits. Take a look at what has made you fail in the past. Now take a look at what you’ve enjoyed and haven’t enjoyed with other failed experiments, other times you’ve tried to make a lifestyle change. If you don’t like running, don’t force yourself to run every day. If you don’t like lifting weights, don’t force yourself to lift every day. Find things you enjoy to be active and then on occasion add in those things you “know you should be doing.” If you know that you just can’t go to bed without dessert, figure out a healthy treat that satisfies you. If you know that having that “all or nothing” attitude will lead to you failing, DON’T DO IT! Make small changes over time. You know yourself. You know what you like and what you don’t like. Account for those things and then do number 3 and PLAN FOR THEM!

5. Celebrate small success – Lose half a pound? Avoid eating that brownie at work even though you really really wanted it but you knew it would just throw off the rest of your week? CELEBRATE IT! Give yourself recognition for changing. Give yourself credit for breaking a bad habit or moving even just the teensiest bit closer to your goal. Too often people get so focused on their long-term goal that they don’t recognize all the great things that they are doing day in and day out. And that focus on the long-term goal, and them not being there yet, can lead to them getting discouraged and feeling like they are failing. When they aren’t! Because those small things that they are doing day in and day out will add up to one very large success. They just have to be patient! You have to get rid of that NOW NOW NOW attitude and celebrate your small victories!

motivational quotes about success

6. Don’t seek perfection – Sorry none of us are perfect. And life and achieving our goals, isn’t about perfection. It is about small forward progress over the weeks, months and even years. It is about NOT being hard on yourself when you slip up. It is about NOT expecting yourself to be perfect. Because when we expect perfection, when we come down on ourselves for one little mistake, that is when we derail all the progress we have made. If you have a cookie or miss a workout, don’t tell yourself your day is ruined. Don’t just give up. Accept that you may just have needed that little deviation and then get right back on track. It isn’t the slip ups that matter, it is how we handle them that has lasting results. One slip up won’t add up but letting that turn into a downward spiral will. Give yourself some room to make mistake and to have “life get in the way.” Because guess what? IT WILL! I even recommend that clients account for plateaus and backslides in their goals. Set a deadline that allows you to not be perfect day in and day out because it just won’t happen. That doesn’t mean you give yourself double the time to accomplish something, but it does mean that you don’t expect yourself to never deviate from the plan.

7. Include others – Many people are embarrassed about being on a diet or a specific workout program. They are afraid to admit their goals to others for fear of being judged. They are also afraid to admit their goals because what if they fail? Stop being afraid of failure AND stop worry about being judged. Find some supportive friends and family and tell them what you want to accomplish. Having other people know your goals makes you a bazillion times less likely to fail especially if you choose people who are supportive. They will hold you accountable and that fear of embarrassment if you fail will be a strong motivator (sorry but its true…may as well use it to our advantage!). Plus if you get others involved, they may just end up working out with you, which could be fun! Or they may help you find new ways to commit to your goals that you didn’t even think of. We all bring something different to the table and being able to talk to other people can really help. They may have experienced some of the same problems and have great ways to get through!

8. Don’t  isolate yourself – Many people on a “diet” feel like they can’t go hang out with friends and be social. But that just isn’t true. You can plan in days to go out and have those be cheat days. Or you can PLAN AHEAD (#3!) and take a look at the restaurant you are going to and know the healthy options. You can even suggest places to go that won’t tempt you to break your diet. AND not every social gathering has to revolve around food! I love going bowling with friends. Or what about hiking or a movie or a dance class? There are lots of fun active things you can do to be social. You don’t have to be a hermit when you are making a lifestyle change. And actually if you force yourself to be one when you aren’t one, you are most likely going to fail. It’s as simple as that.

9. Don’t worry about what others are doing or thinking – Too often we get caught up in what other people are doing or thinking. And honestly, you just can’t worry about that. We can’t compare our progress to our friend’s. Just because their diet is working for them doesn’t mean it will work for you. You can’t get down on yourself just because your progress is slower. Progress is progress PERIOD. And on top of that you can’t care about the people who will put you down because you are making progress when they aren’t. Who cares if someone thinks you are psycho because you have to go to your workout class every day and you love bragging about how hard the workout was? Seriously who cares what they think if you are happy with your new habits? Ever occur to you that most of the negative crap that comes out of people’s mouths is because they are JEALOUS? Don’t worry about your friend’s diet or what they think of yours. If you feel good, if you are moving forward, focus on YOURSELF.

10. Track your progress – This links back to celebrating the small success and having deadlines. Actually this one really ties everything together. There is nothing more motivating than progress. There is nothing like progress to keep us on track. So figure out ways to track how you are doing. Goals don’t only have to revolve around weight loss or even how much you lifted. Weeks where you just stuck to your program should be measured and tracked and treated as progress. Set up a few different goals to measure and track them weekly, monthly and yearly. And then celebrate those successes. And while tracking our progress can help us see how far we’ve come, it can also tell us when we need a change. If you track your workouts, you will be able to clearly see if you’ve hit a plateau and need a change. If we aren’t moving forward, we may need to change something. If we haven’t tracked what we are doing, how will we know if we need a change! Tracking can help keep us moving forward!

Now thinking about all this, I still stand firm in the fact that change isn’t really “easier” for any one person.

But you know what….let people go ahead and think that! Be proud of your success and don’t let anyone take away from it! Know that all of your hard work paid off!

NOTE: Thank you Shannon. This post was inspired by your emails. You are an amazing, strong woman and an inspiration to us all!

How to make your workouts challenging

Generally when we want to make an exercise or workout more challenging, we add more weight.

And lifting heavier definitely makes a move more challenging.

Shoot I love that feeling of lifting more than I did the week before. I love adding weight!

But adding more weight to an exercise isn’t always the best way to make the move more challenging.

If you feel like you are plateauing or have plateaued, or if you feel like your workouts just aren’t challenging you anymore, here are five ways to your workouts more challenging WITHOUT just adding more weight to the moves.

1. Change up your rep tempo:

I think rep tempo is far too often overlooked. I think most of the time people just do the reps as quickly as possible or in a “controlled” tempo. They never want to slow the reps down. Why? Because slow reps are uncomfortable and HARD! A great way to make any move more challenging without adding more weight is to slow down your rep tempo. I love doing a 5 second eccentric contraction (the part of the movement when the muscles are lengthening). Like in a squat…Take five seconds to squat down to the ground. Then explode up. That slow eccentric contraction is killer!

You can also do isometric versions of the exercises or HOLDS. Instead of doing reps of a squat, or maybe even BEFORE you do squat reps, do a hold (with or without weight). The hold is killer and then makes the reps even more challenging. Here is a great Isometric workout that will challenge you even if you don’t use much weight at all!

Those are just two of the ways you can slow down reps to make them more challenging.

You can also speed the reps up if you always do them slowly. Doing reps more explosively can also be challenging.

The key is to adjust your tempo and use it to challenge yourself instead of just doing reps in the same old “controlled” fashion all the time.

2. Change up your rest:

Not every workout has to be done as quickly as possible with as little rest as possible. On the flip side, not every heavy strength workout has to include a TON of rest between sets.

Honestly, I feel like recently you have more and more people just trying to cut out the rest and go as quickly as possible through everything though.

And less rest doesn’t necessarily mean a better workout.

Change up your rest if you are always doing the same thing.

Try some circuits that are timed so that you have to do as many rounds as possible before the time is up. This will force you to take less rest.

Or try taking more rest if you are always pushing yourself to go faster. Try to recover so that you can really give the same work output each round.

Recovery/rest should be used to achieve specific goals. Don’t just take out all rest because it “feels hard” at the time. Add in rest or take it out to achieve specific goals.

Are you working on your work capacity? Then maybe shorten the rest. But if you are really trying to focus on strength or maybe even on improving your speed or power, you may want to add in more rest.

Longer rest doesn’t mean easier.

3. Do a variation of the current lift (single limb movements are great!):

There isn’t only ONE way to squat. ONE way to deadlift. ONE type of push up! Variations of these moves could help you target your weak spots.

For instance, if you do the sumo deadlift all the time, try doing a week or two of conventional. It will give your hips a break and it will probably end up strengthening your sumo deadlift!

Or try a front squat instead of a back squat. A front squat is going to force you to engage your core more (and you may actually need to lift LESS than you would with the back squat).

There are a ton of variations that may just target your current weak spots without using more weight (and maybe even using less) and make them stronger so that, in the end, you can lift more on the moves you love!

Some of my favorite exercises variations to add in are single limb movements. These exercises work to correct imbalances, develop core strength, and improve balance all while building a stronger mind-body connection.

Try a single leg deadlift or a single leg squat. You may not even need weight at the beginning to challenge your body! Here are some single leg movements to try!

4. Change up the type of resistance/equipment you are using:

Do you do step ups but they aren’t feeling that challenging anymore? Do you usually just add more weight?

How about trying a higher box! Using a higher or lower box can hit your glutes from a different angle.

You can also mix up glute bridges by using different pieces of equipment. It is the same basic move, but it can be done with your feet up on a box or on a powerwheel instead of just simply on the ground.

butt exercise

And same even goes for lunges. Sliders (towels) can be a great way to reduce traction and make lunges harder without adding weight!

Any exercise can be changed up by using a different piece of equipment or a different type of resistance. And sometimes when you change-up the equipment or type of resistance, you will find you even need to go down in weight at the beginning.

A split squat can be done on the ground OR with the back foot up on a bench (balance lunge). The first time you change from a split squat on the ground, even if you use weight, to a balance lunge, you may find you either need to use less weight or drop the weight all together. Both moves can be challenging, but both definitely work the muscles in a different way while being the exact same basic move!

And not only can you add in a piece of equipment to a move but you can also change-up the type of weight that you are using. What about an overhead press with a resistance band instead of dumbbells? Or what about a deadlift with kettlebells instead of a barbell?

Doing the same exercise can feel very different just by switching up the resistance. Bands force you to work on the way up AND the way down. Whereas with dumbbells you really only work on the press overhead, you work harder in both directions with a band because there is consistent resistance throughout the move.

A deadlift with kettlebells is also very different from a deadlift with a barbell. It is way harder on the grip to hold two heavy kettlebells that equal 135lbs than it is to hold a deadlift with 135lbs. For one, neither hand gets assistance from the other. For two, the competition kettlebells have a fatter handle than the barbell, which make them harder to grip.

The point is by making simple changes in exactly how you perform the same moves can make them more challenging and even work on weak points within your lifts by hitting the muscles from a different angle!

5. Load asymmetrically:

Have you ever tried using less weight to make a move harder?

Try dropping a weight on just one side when you lift.

Asymmetrical loading can make moves incredibly hard and really build core stability. It also forces each side of the body to work independently which helps correct imbalances without necessarily being a single limb movement.

Try a unilateral deadlift, single arm bench press or unilateral farmer’s walk. It will be harder than you think. You may even need to go down in weight at the beginning since it takes a toll on your core.

It isn’t easy trying not to lean either too much away from the weight or too much into it. Your body will want to rotate, but you can’t let it.

Asymmetrical loading is one of my favorite way to add some variety to my workouts as it really does build great core strength and can be done with almost any move (it can also really help improve your balance).

Do you always just add more weight to make exercises harder? What are your favorite ways to add variety and keep your workouts challenging?

Home Workouts – Keep It Simple Stupid

The other week I was contacted by the OC Register about participating in a column they were writing throughout the year about workout moves you could do at home. They were talking to a few different trainers in the area and getting each of them to demo about 8-10 exercises. (My first move will be featured on the 25th…AHHHHHHH!)

You could use equipment. It just had to be something that could easily be stored.

I was super pumped to participate and instantly started writing out a list of things I could do. I debated about a kettlebell or sandbag.

But decided against using any equipment except for something someone would easily have lying around the house.

I’ve become extremely interested in finding and creating great and challenging home workout moves you can do with limited space and no equipment and I wanted to highlight some of those moves.

And when the reporter asked me why I picked the moves I did when there are so many crazy cool new pieces of equipment out there that could be stored easily at home….

I said, “Because you don’t NEED any of those!”

Equipment can be fun. It can keep you interested and add variety to a routine that is getting stale.

But it isn’t NECESSARY.

Equipment doesn’t mean you are going to get a more challenging workout. Heck sometimes it even means getting away from truly functional moves that will truly have the most benefit.

Equipment is a TOY. It isn’t necessary even though people have become convinced that they can only get in a great workout if they have the latest and greatest TOY.

Basically, I explained to him that I wanted to make a point that you don’t really need ANYTHING to get in a great workout at home! That there are a ton of tweaks you can make to traditional moves to make them more challenging and keep your workout interesting.

Yea I love equipment, but sometimes it just takes us away from what is important. Sometimes it distracts us from focusing on what will actually help us achieve our goals.

Sometimes equipment just complicates moves unnecessarily.

Sometimes we would get more out of a workout if we just KEPT IT SIMPLE and stuck to basic moves and movements!

Pull, push, squat and hinge. Those four basic movements are all you need.

Push Ups, pull ups (or rows), squats and lunges. These are examples of each of the four movements above.

Those four moves work your entire body. And those four moves can be made challenging without any equipment. There are also a ton of variations you can do without anything fancy so you never get bored.

Push ups can be done on an incline. Or you can do them on a decline to advance them. You can do handstand push ups. Or set up some books and do a shuffle push up over them. You can also do a push up to side plank or a fly to push up on a towel. (For more push up variations, here are some ideas. You can do all of these at home even the push up to dip.)

There is always the spiderman push up too....

There is always the spiderman push up too….

All these moves are simple. None of them require anything you don’t have at home. And all just are slight variations on the traditional push up.

We aren’t reinventing the wheel here.

We are just tweaking it slightly to make it harder or easier. We are adjusting it to focus on slightly different parts of our body.

Same goes for the pull ups or rows, squats and lunges.

Especially the lunges.

People think of lunges and they think forward and backward lunges….maybe they even include side lunges. But what about curtsy lunges? What about lunges in EVERY DIRECTION? You can do angled lunges. Rotational lunges…You can literally lunge in every direction to hit different aspects of your leg.

Rotational Lunges

You can lunge in EVERY direction!

And on top of that you can add a towel to one foot to increase the intensity of the lunges. Or you can even do a balance lunge with your foot up on a couch/chair/table to make the basic split squat even more difficult.

You can do lunges where the weight is on the leg moving out. Or you can do a lunge where the leg working is more static. For example: On a side lunge, you can either step out into the lunge and sink into the leg that has stepped out OR you can sink into the standing leg and then just reach the other leg out straight to tap the toe out to the side.

Both work the leg in very different ways!

But you don’t need any fancy equipment to make the moves hard or even add variety! You can work your legs from every angle just by doing a LUNGE.

Keep it simple stupid.

Don’t worry about the latest and greatest equipment. Stick with the basics and you will get results!

What are your favorite variations of the push up, pull ups (or rows), squats and lunges? Do you find that you get caught up always looking for the next new piece of equipment? Do you even skip workouts at home because you don’t have “equipment?”

P.S. Who likes working out with a friend or a spouse? Interested in some great partner moves? Check back tomorrow!!!

Calorie Cycling: Are you cutting out TOO MUCH?

Today I want to take a second and talk about weight/fat loss and dieting. While I always drive people to have performance goals, a great percentage of the clients I deal with do have weight loss goals as one of their reasons for wanting to start with training.

Some are completely aesthetic goals. Some are health related.

But whatever the reason, weight loss is a very common goal.

And many people think that weight loss or body fat loss means cutting everything out.

Your plate should NOT look like this.

But can cutting out TOO MUCH actually be the reason why they aren’t seeing results?

YUP!

If you cut out too much, your body is going to think it is starving. And when your body thinks it is starving, it is going to try to slow everything down so that it can protect the stores that it has.

AKA your metabolism slows down, which fights against you losing the weight/fat you were trying to lose.

Not to mention that if you aren’t fueling properly, your body is going to be stressed, which will negatively affect your hormone levels.

And you aren’t going to have the energy to workout or even really make it through the day functioning at a high level.

All those hours you are putting in at the gym may not be paying off because you don’t really have the energy to push your body to work as hard as it needs to for you to make the strength/muscle/cardiovascular gains you are looking to make.

And I bet you are now shaking your head, thinking, “But I need to really cut calories or I won’t lose weight! Even Bob Harper’s diet says to eat only 800 calories a day for three weeks!”

If you eat 800 calories a day and expect your body to function at a high level, you are kidding yourself. At that rate, you are going to stall very quickly and your body is going to revolt.

Plus, 800 calories from meat and veggies is going to affect your body way differently than 800 calories of M&Ms. You are going to see drastically different results if you eat the RIGHT FOODS.

You now may be thinking, “Ok so you are one of those “quality matters more than the number of calories.”

Yes…and No.

I do think creating a calorie deficit matters. BUT I think that quality of the food you consume matters just as much.

And while I’m a fan of low carb, I do believe that cutting out too much of ANYTHING, be in calories or a macronutrient, for prolonged periods of time leads to plateaus and potentially even backslides.

So what do you do if cutting out a ton of calories isn’t the way and it isn’t only about eating the right foods?

YOU CYCLE!

I call it carb cycling, but it could very well be described as calorie cycling as well.

I meet my body’s needs.

And every day my body doesn’t need the same thing.

Some days I completely deplete my glycogen stores. I do a super tough workout and have had a few days of lower carb. And now my body needs carbs.

And if I don’t do a carb refeed, I’m going to be a grouchy low-energy person. I’m going to be angry and not very fun to be around. My workouts will suffer and that will only serve to make me more peeved.

So I avoid letting that happen.

I do a carb refeed. I respect what my body needs.

Just like I respect the fact that on some days my body wants breakfast and on others it doesn’t. Some days it needs 3,000 calories and other days it is fine with only 1,500.

And the thing is, your body functions best when it is getting what it NEEDS!

If you want to lose fat, if you want to lose weight, yes, you’ve got to make changes to your diet. And yes, you will need to create a calorie deficit at points, but you’ve also got to respect what your body needs to keep functioning at a high level.

Because when your body functions well, it will also do a good job of losing the weight and performing well.

But on top of that, cutting out “enough” calories to lose weight, or cutting your carbs, doesn’t mean you do it to the same extent EVERY SINGLE DAY.

CYCLE.

Cycle in high days. Cycle in low days. When you workout, fuel your workout. Replenish your body.

When you don’t workout, don’t give it calories or foods it doesn’t need.

The cycling allows you to create the calorie deficit and/or carb fluctuations you need over the weeks, months, or even years to lose the weight/fat without your body feeling deprived or stressed so that your hormone levels and metabolism work against you.

If you’re progress has stalled, take a look at your diet. You may just be cutting too much out.

Just like we vary our workouts to create some “muscle confusion” since our body adapts, we need to vary our diet since our body will adapt and try to prevent starvation if we cut out too many calories.

Have you ever suffered from the, “If I barely eat I’ll lose more weight” mentality?

When did you realize that NOT STARVING yourself actually led to greater results!?! (Maybe right now…..)

NOTE: STOP WEIGHING YOURSELF EVERY DAY! If you cycle calories and carbs, your weight will fluctuate day to day. Pick one day a week or even each month to weigh. Do not put it right after your carb refeed.

Metabolic Typing

While I enjoy ripping on vegetarians quite frequently (sorry vegetarian readers), I do just as often admit that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to dieting.

Different diets are going to work for different people.

End of story.

And while I don’t think this means that there is truly someone out there that can eat junk food and be healthy, I do believe that there is a range of things that will work for different people.

diet books

The diet industry thrives on trying to sell you a magic diet solution…it wouldn’t exist if everyone just kept it simple and ate WHOLE, NATURAL FOODS instead of looking for a quick fix!

Which is why I was interested in attending our nutritional workshop about Metabolic Typing today at the gym.

“One man’s food is another man’s poison.” – Hippocrates

What works for you may not work for your friend or family member.

Had that happen to you before, right? Had a friend say to you, “I followed ______ diet and felt great and lost 20lbs!” And then you went and tried the diet only to find out that you felt crappy and gained weight.

And it wasn’t that you didn’t do the diet correctly. It wasn’t that you didn’t follow the directions to a T.

It’s just that each of us have slightly unique nutritional requirements and different environmental factors that affect our gene expression. Our genetic make-up and our environment play a huge role in determining what “diet” works well for us.

There are a ton of studies out there about cultures that have a high number of centenarians. Researches have looked for that perfect diet that promises a long and healthy life.

But what they found wasn’t one diet. It was a variety of diets.

Of course there were some commonalities between the diets, like a lack of crap processed foods, but each diet was DIFFERENT.

Because there is no magic prescription, no one size fits all.

Trust me, I know. I had to test out a few different diets that have worked for other people before I found the one that worked best for me.

Over the last few years, I’ve experimented with a variety of diets and macronutrient breakdowns. I’ve done low-fat and high carb. Low-fat and low-carb. High fat, high protein and low-carb. Carb and fat cycling…

I’ve messed around with grains, dairy, fruits, nuts, organic, local, grass-fed. I’ve experimented with a ton of different variables.

Some things have worked. Some….some well…didn’t.

But instead of worrying about what SHOULD work, about what worked for other people, I focused on what actually worked for me.

And the things that worked, I kept. And the rest, I discarded without looking back.

By running my own experiments, I’ve found a diet that works for me. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not constantly learning and still always making micro-adjustments.

Because let’s face it, your environment doesn’t always stay the same.

And my perfect diet isn’t the same as Ryan’s perfect diet. I’ve found that I need more carbs than Ryan. Be it my genetic requirements or the way my body reacts to my workouts or a variety of other factors, I need more carbs.

As the guy who came in today and did the Metabolic Typing workshop said, “We are as individual as our fingerprint.”

Each of us will have slightly different nutritional requirements.

And while I do believe that if we all live by the principle “eat whole natural foods” we will all be pretty darn healthy, I do think that to reach our full potential we need to consider our own unique needs.

Have you done any self-experiments? What diet works for you? Ever tried a friend’s diet and had it completely backfire?

NOTE: Now whether or not I agree with the whole questionnaire that supposed reveals your metabolic type is another question and a post for another day. Dr. Oz has a four question metabolic typing quiz that shows you how it works. I do, however, believe that your genetic make-up does affect exactly what variation of a “whole, natural foods diet” is right for you and that genetic testing can be valuable. I just don’t know if a questionnaire can really determine it….

A quick guide to healthy eating

So a huge part of being healthy, looking great, feeling great and performing well is eating the RIGHT foods.

If you don’t fuel properly, your body isn’t going to run properly – it’s as simple as that.

And while I’m most definitely not a car aficionado (and I’m sure anyone who really knows anything about cars will roll their eyes at how I use the analogy) I do believe that one of the best ways to describe eating healthily is by comparing it to fueling a car.

If you use bad fuel, your car won’t run properly. You will get bad gas mileage and your car will probably break down. However, if you give your car the proper fuel, your car will run great and you most likely won’t have near as many problems with it.

Same goes for your body…Eat crap food and your body will run, but not near as well as it could. Eat healthy food and you will be able to perform a lot better (not to mention you will FEEL a lot better!).

And you may be thinking right now…I haven’t had problems so why should I change my diet.

Let me just say this..Just because you aren’t having problems doesn’t mean your body feels or functions as well as it could.

You might not even realize you aren’t running as well as you could until you fuel properly and see just how great your “mileage” could actually be. And once you do fuel properly, trust me, you won’t want to go back!

Ok so let’s say you buy it and know that you need to fuel properly.

How do you then decide what you should eat?

I live by these two simple rules:

  • Eat whole, natural foods – Foods raised or grown in the way they should be. Cage-free chickens, grass-fed beef. Organic fruits and veggies. Unprocessed. Local. Seasonal.
  • Eat as little processed food as possible – There is a spectrum of processed. From a veggie you can pick and eat right of the ground to a Twinkie which is so processed it will never ever go bad and doesn’t contain even one ingredient that you can even pronounce. If something lasts longer than it should, like the difference between freshly home-made bread and store bought bread that last years, you know that it is highly processed. Your goal is to eat as much as you can from the unprocessed to only slightly processed side while still occasionally indulging in deliciousness from the processed side.

On the image below that sums up this post, you will see that I break down foods with the best options in green and the worst in red. There are a lot of different levels of processing…To keep it simple, I’ve broken it down into four different levels. If you follow the two rules above, the majority of your diet will come from the green list (which is by no means all-inclusive) with some of your daily foods coming from the yellow list. You will also occasionally indulge in foods from both the orange and red lists, which are more highly processed foods that contain little to no nutritional value.

Anyway, take a look at the infographic below for a quick guide to healthy eating!

Nutritional guide

Your guide to fuel your body!

Accepting Pain aka STUPIDITY

So there are all sorts of “pain” related discussions that really get on my nerves.

One is when clients who are working hard for the first time in their life tell you that an exercise “hurts” when, upon further investigation, you find out that it is merely making their muscles fatigued and that they aren’t used to the burning sensation of a muscle working.

While I don’t like the phrase “no pain, no gain,” being sore and working hard isn’t always “comfortable.”

But at the same time having the attitude “no pain, no gain” and never recognizing when something hurts isn’t good either.

While I can get annoyed when someone can’t recognize the difference between “injury pain” and “discomfort from muscles working hard,” I get way more annoyed by the client who thinks they are cool because they push through the pain.

And honestly this “no pain, no gain” client WAY worse than the client that mistakes muscles working for pain.

You may be shaking your head and going, “Heck no! They aren’t near the same! You have to work through the pain sometimes! You are TOUGH if you just push through!”

Uhm no…I’m sorry….You don’t…and you aren’t.

You are stupid.

Period.

Yep that’s right…STUPID.

Oh yes…Let’s put some sexy people on a poster working hard and say “no pain, no gain.” That way when people get injured they will think it is all just part of the process to look and perform like the attractive people in the photo! ARGH!

I can say this as someone who has been stupid one too many times in her past. I have the torn muscles and scar tissue to prove it.

And guess what I have now?

Improperly rehabbed injuries that years later I’m now having to deal with.

Trust me…injuries aren’t cool.

You aren’t “bad-ass” if you push through.

Honestly, unless you are a highly paid athlete, there is never a reason to push through true pain and injury. And even if you are a highly paid athlete, there is a very fine line between stupid and something you push through because it is your job.

When you work through the pain, generally all you do is make the injury worse. And then you are either eventually going to have to take time off, and probably MORE time than if you had rested and rehabbed it immediately, OR you are going to have something that restricts your movement and causes pain for the rest of your life.

Doesn’t sound like great options if you don’t just DEAL with the pain immediately.

But rehab and pre-hab aren’t “cool.”

It is way cooler to be like, “I can’t do push ups because of my shoulder.”…Right!?!

AH!

I can’t tell you how many people recently I’ve encountered coming from other gyms who say they “can’t do” something because of an injury they’ve never dealt with and just “worked through.”

And every time I say to them the same thing, “Well what have you been doing for rehab?”

And I always get the same answer…NOTHING.

Can someone please explain this to me?

Why is pain cool and rehab not cool?

Don’t we workout to feel BETTER!?! Don’t we go to look BETTER? Perform BETTER?

If we want exercise to make us BETTER, how do we expect to do that if we are restricted and in PAIN?!

If you have an ankle injury, even one from decades ago, and you never rehabbed it, it may be causing problems up your leg. It may be why you have low back and hip pain. It may be why you have balance issues. It may be why you can’t lift as much as you want to. It may be why your butt isn’t as strong and perky as you would like!

It may be causing a whole load of problems that aren’t even related to the initial injury!

But it is better to just push through…huh?

Ok here is your chance to stop being an idiot and stop accepting pain.

Take five minutes at the beginning of your workout and add in an exercise or two to rehab or better yet “pre-hab” any weak points or areas of past injury. (Just because at one point in your life you did some rehab for an injury doesn’t mean you are just now done with it now. That area may always need some extra TLC.)

Here are a couple quick things you can do for four common areas of injuries…

  • ANKLE/FOOT PAIN/INJURY (Heck these are even good for some knee and hip problems) – Roll out the bottom of your foot, your shin and your calf with a roller or small ball. Then work on your balance. My favorite balancing drill is when you either stand on one foot on the ground or on a foam pad and then you swing the other leg. Do swings forwards and backwards, side to side and even rotational (like you are lifting your foot to step back over a fence and then bringing it back forward over the fence without touching down). Then do glute activation drills. Pick one or two from this list and do 1-2 rounds of 10-20 reps.
  • LOW BACK/HIP PAIN/INJURY – Low back pain is a super common problem. While rolling out the whole leg is ideal to find all trigger points, you can start with your hips, glutes and low back. A great way to roll out your hips, can be to take a bigger, foam ball and lay over it. The ball will actually be pressing into your abs right above your hip and beside your belly button. Relax over the ball as much as you can. You will also want to stretch your glutes and hips. Here are some more great trigger point release tips for your hip area. You will also probably want to do some stretches and trigger point release for your thoracic spine and lats. We can sometimes compensate and use our low back because our thoracic mobility is bad. A great thoracic stretch is one you do when kneeling. Kneel on the ground with one hand planted on the ground under the shoulder. Then reach your other hand back over your head with your finger tips pointing down your spine. Then rotate your elbow of the hand down your spine, under your arm that is down. Then rotate open, reaching the elbow up toward the ceiling. Again, glute activation exercises are key. If our glutes aren’t firing, we are going to use our low back and hamstrings more than we should!
  • WRIST/ELBOW PAIN/INJURY – Yup…you can even roll out your forearms. If you have wrist or elbow pain, rolling our your forearms, triceps and biceps can help, especially if you target the areas of insertion. Wrist/forearms stretches are also important. We sit at computers all day with our wrists flexed and never really think to do anything to extend and release the muscles. One of my favorite wrist stretches is, when I kneel down and place my hands on the ground under my shoulders. I then turn my finger tips to face my knees with my palms flat on the ground. I then rock back and sit on my heels, keeping my palms flat on the ground, and then return back to kneeling and release. To also help activate the extensors of my wrist and forearm, I use a trick I was taught by Corey…The rubber band extension. Take a rubber band and place it around the outside of your fingers when they are all together. Then spread your fingers out as wide apart as you can before bringing them back together. This really helps with a lot of elbow pain!
  • SHOULDER/UPPER BACK/NECK PAIN/INJURY – Roll out your traps, chest and lats. You will also want to stretch your chest and neck. You can easily stretch your chest using a wall or doorway. Place your hand and even your forearm on the wall or door frame and then step forward till you feel a stretch. To stretch your neck, lean your head to one side and gentle pull your head down toward your shoulder, making sure you keep your shoulders relaxed. To change exactly which muscles you hit, look up, down and straight ahead. Then you will want to do a scapular wall hold. If you do it correctly, you will activate your lower traps which will help you relax your upper traps and usually helps with neck pain. YTWLs are great too to activate the muscles in your upper back and strengthen your rotator cuff. Check out this video by Nick Tumminello on how to do them.

Here is another article with some essential mobility drills that can help you move better!

You don’t have to do these every day, but you do want to make sure that spots that need improvement get attention! So stop accepting pain and start doing something about it. It really doesn’t take that much time.

Be smart…It’s way more “bad-ass!”

NOTE: If you are suffering from an injury, it is best to get checked out by a doctor. Most of these drills are meant for already diagnosed injuries or minor recurring injuries/pains. Also, this list is by no means comprehensive. It is just to give you an idea that there are some quick things you can do before your workouts, to correct problems!

Scenic Cali?

So on Thursday Ryan and I started our road trip up the Cali coast for Carmel where a friend of Ryan’s was getting married on Clint Eastwood’s ranch.

While I’ve been to a few spots in Northern Cali, I’ve never taken a road trip up the coast and let me tell you…it was an eye-opener!

Along the way I kept rambling on to Ryan about two certain thoughts…one was about “cheat days” and the whole debate over them and whether they should even be called “cheat days” and the other was about our farming systems and the environment.

And while I’ll talk about cheat days tomorrow after my food hangover wears off, today I do want to talk about the nature of farming while the images from our drive are still fresh in my mind.

So I am a Midwest girl. And I grew up driving through farmland. Just about every tennis trip we took, my mom and I would drive through hours and hours of farmland.

Mostly I just thought it was boring. Super flat land with rows and rows of the same crop. Basically just corn as far as the eye could see.

There would be a few horses…Maybe some cattle…But mostly just CORN.

But anyway, my point is, I’ve seen lots of farmland before and never really given it a second thought…until now.

And I don’t know if it was all the cool and new scenery or the fact that I’m more conscious about where my food comes from now, but a lot of what I saw really made me question…

Ryan told me the scenery would be cool even though we would be driving through a lot of desert. He said we would also drive by the ocean, through some interesting scenery in the hills, through more forested areas and then finally on our way home…lots of farmland.

What I didn’t realize is that I was going to see everything right next to each other and at times, all at once. I saw ocean next to farm next to desert next to forest next to great huge hills.

I also didn’t expect to see wildfires right next to the road.

The hills were covered in smoke and there were fires all over...even right by the highway.

The hills were covered in smoke and there were fires all over…even right by the highway.

When I was younger, I remember learning that wildfires could be good and necessary for some ecosystems. But that wasn’t the case with all of the fires popping up around Southern Cali. These fires were damaging not only potentially to people’s property but also to the land and natural vegetation.

The fires made me shake my head in disbelief. I never thought I would see one.

As we drove on through a slightly flatter area a bit away from the ocean, we passed strawberry fields and blueberry farms.

And then as we entered back into a few more hills, we saw a whole bunch of cattle roaming the hillside….

I was like “AH!” Grass-fed, free range BEEF!

So right now if you are a vegetarian, you may want to tune out as I’m going to start my whole YAY for meat thing. Just giving you a heads up…

Anyway, I was excited to see the cattle roaming the hillside so close to our home especially since a local meat shop owner here had recently told me that the reason it was hard to get grass-fed beef is because we are so surrounded by desert terrain.

Here was proof that there actually was local grass-fed beef!!!

All those happy cows roaming and eating and enjoying the sun.

Look at those cows grazing!

Look at those cows grazing!

I was excited!

But then I turned to Ryan and said, “I wonder why there are so few. There could be whole herds roaming these hills!”

And I’m sure now if you are a vegetarian still reading you want to now tell me about all the bad things the animals we raise on farms do to our environment.

But don’t. Because pasture-raised animals don’t have the same impact on our environment that industrial farms’ conventionally raised animals do. Pasture-raised animals are actually GOOD for our environment. They actually help regulate the ecosystem and can help keep it way healthier than our freaking monocrop farming does…but I’m getting to that…

Anyway, I was excited to see the pasture-raised cows and just sad that I didn’t see more of them. There was a ton of hillside that could be grazed and as Ryan pointed out, “The areas where the cows seemed to have grazed look healthier!” (Which in fact they did…way more green on the hillside with cows!)

Maybe if we had more animals eating the grass and renewing the soil like they used to, we wouldn’t have as many devastating wildfires as we do now….Just a thought….

So sometime after seeing the cows and the wildfires, we stopped in San Luis Obispo. We met with a friend for a hike, which ended up turning into more a mile straight up climb…AH!…before heading out to dinner in town.

We were also super lucky in that there was a farmer’s market going on that night. And on top of produce and meat from a ton of local farms, there was a stand with RAW MILK!

A bad picture of the raw milk stand!

A bad picture of the raw milk stand!

It was the first time I’d seen a stand with raw milk since there is so much pressure by the government NOT to sell it…And it isn’t usually worth the headache for the farmers.

As cheesy (bad pun?) as it sounds, seeing that raw milk and pasture-raised cows really made my day.

I was like “YESSSSS! There is some hope for good, naturally raised and grown food here!”

After leaving San Luis Obispo, we began to move a bit more out of farmland as we wound through the hills by the ocean although I do swear we saw farmland with cattle roaming free and ZEBRAS…although I didn’t manage to snap a picture, but instead failed epically getting only a picture of my finger…

The view on our drive we beautiful and definitely different from anything I’d seen in the Midwest or even on the East Coast. And as I raved about the view, Ryan told me to just wait till we drove back home the less scenic way.

On our way back home, we were going to drive through Salinas, which is a huge farming community. It most definitely reminded me more of the farmland in the Midwest even though it wasn’t endless corn.

As we drove through Salinas, the winds were terrible. Ryan then remarked that the winds were a problem when it came to organic farming and pesticides.

Driving through Salinas.

Driving through Salinas.

He said that most of the time organic farms and pesticide-using farms were right next to each other and that when the wind blew, the pesticides would be blown right on to the organic produce.

So much for thinking your organic produce was so much better huh?

Of course, if we didn’t promote monocrop farming, maybe we wouldn’t have the same insect and soil problems that we have now and wouldn’t need to use the pesticides…But then I forgot….It isn’t plant farming that is causing the environmental problems is it?

Anyway, even worse than the fact that our organic produce isn’t really organic, is the serious health problems created by pesticides for people within the community.

Ryan then started telling me about how the community has a whole bunch of health issues because of the pesticides.

I couldn’t believe it.

Like honestly, couldn’t believe it.

What the heck is wrong with us? For all we talk about “eating well” and “living a healthy lifestyle” we don’t seem to really care that we are using all this crap and following farming practices that will kill us.

Quality matters people.

Anyway, what was a very scenic drive really opened my eyes and made me look around and think.

I’ve driven through farmland before, but this is the first time I think I’ve ever really looked at it.

Feed the Beast – Roasted Chicken and Broccoli Slaw

While I’m sure “Roasted Chicken and Broccoli Slaw” doesn’t sound utterly delicious, it really really was.

But while I meant today to be a simple recipe post, I feel the need to comment on a lot of what I’ve read this morning..and well…this week in general actually.

A lot of you have probably seen, or heard about by now, Bob Harper’s new dieting tips…Jumpstart to Skinny and the recommendation that women eat 800 calories a day.

Can I just pause to comment and say, “And people call me crazy because I do intermittent fasting and skip breakfast sometimes!?!”

At least I’m not starving myself! I’m just eating when I’m hungry. Whereas 800 calories a day is simply NOT eating! It is LITERALLY starving yourself!

I’m sorry but if you have to eat 800 calories a day to make his diet work on time, it isn’t a diet you should be doing!

Why?

Because it isn’t realistic! That isn’t something you can maintain for longer than the three weeks if even that long!

Yes…yes…I get that it is a JUMPSTART…And yes I do see the benefit sometimes of going stricter or working harder to break a plateau or get the momentum going, but honestly 800 calories a day is just ridiculous.

And so many of his 13 rules just sound like the same old bull crap. I mean come on don’t eat carbs after lunch?

I mean I even promote going low carb but believe that statement is utterly ridiculous! If your body needs the carbs, protein, fat…WHATEVER…it is going to use it no matter what time you eat them.

And really go to bed hungry!?! COME ON! No wonder everyone thinks that a healthy lifestyle is impossible. Who the heck wants to go to bed hungry!?!

AH!

Also, did anyone notice that his list says “Eat protein with every meal” and then also says “Make one day a week meatless”?

Yes I do realize that you don’t need to eat meat to get protein, but do you know how much harder it is to get all the essential amino acids if you don’t? Do you also know what most people turn to when they try to get protein without eating meat and aren’t supposed to drink their calories so protein shakes are out!?!

PROCESSED CRAP!

Most people don’t go eat beans and rice and do all the research to find out what foods pair together to give you a complete protein. Instead they eat some processed veggie burger….or a whole jar of Jiffy Peanut Butter…that has some protein right!?!

AH!

Anyway, I was utterly annoyed by his list, but really not surprised. It is the same old conventional wisdom crap spewed out over and over again.

Shoot if people really sold the truth, they wouldn’t get to keep churning out book after book!

And you want to know what the truth is!?! I can sum it up in four basic, and slightly redundant, rules….

1. Eat WHOLE NATURAL FOODS!

2. Cut out PROCESSED CRAP!

3. Eat when you are HUNGRY! (Not bored, or stressed or tired, but when you are hungry…be that one meal a day or 20).

4. Don’t starve yourself. (Not eating enough can stall fat loss and hinder performance and make you feel like CRAP)

But those rules wouldn’t sell. There is no secret there. No super specific directions to make you drop weight instantly.

But guess what?

Those are the truth!

Anyway, I’m done rambling about this. If you want a blog post that tears apart these rules much better than my rant above just did, check out Nia Shanks’ post.

Back to my original posting topic…FEEDING THE BEAST…aka feeding myself!

Recently, Ryan and I have become very into “Asian inspired” dishes. I use the term “Asian-inspired” rather loosely…basically meaning we used some sesame seed oil, rice vinegar and Tamari in our dish.

Anyway, Ryan made a great roasted chicken dish the other night and I wanted to share it!

roasted chicken

Ingredients:

1.5lbs chicken legs
2 cups Broccoli Slaw
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Tamari
1 tbsp Jalapeno-Kiwi relish
1 tsp Siracha
1 tsp garlic
3 green onions
1 tbsp Rice vinegar

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine oil, tamari, relish, siracha, garlic and onions. Remove a few tablespoons and combine with rice vinegar to mix into the broccoli slaw.

Brush a bit of sauce onto the chicken and bake for 20 minutes before applying more sauce. Total baking time will be about 45 minutes.

In the last five minutes dump on the rest of the sauce. Mix broccoli slaw with the sauce/vinegar mixture.

Then enjoy the roasted chicken legs and broccoli slaw!

Why do people love cleanse diets?

So recently I’ve had a few of my female clients ask me about cleanse diets.

I personally would NEVER ever do one…or for that matter recommend that any of my clients do one.

This is what I think of when I think of cleanse diets (although many of them aren’t low carb).

I know they are the popular thing, but honestly, they are stupid.

Really? Drink juice for a week and your body will be cleansed?!?

Sounds like a week of feeling crappy and overloaded with sugar!

And when I tell most people that I think cleanses are stupid, they say to me, “Well then how do you rid your body of all the toxins that accumulate?”

UHM…I DON’T EAT CRAP FOOD MOST OF THE TIME!

You shouldn’t need to do a cleanse if you are eating a healthy diet 80% of the time. That healthy eating will, itself, make your body healthier and remove all of the “toxins.”

And really you think that one week on a “cleanse” is going to remove all the toxins from your body that you’ve been consuming for months and months and months eating a poor diet!?!

HA!

If you want to make your body healthy, you need to eat healthily most of the time…not for one week!

And the funniest thing is, when I say they should eat healthy 80% of the time if they really want a clean, healthy body, they tell me that only cleanses TRULY remove all of the gunk. That eating healthy doesn’t get it all out.

REALLY!?!

Some cleanse diet is going to remove some hidden gunk that eating only whole natural foods won’t remove!?!

UHM…NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!

Sometimes I want to ask people obsessed with cleanse diets what this supposed hidden gunk is? I mean really what is so supposedly stuck in us that only a cleanse diet can rid of us?

Also, I would just like to point out that most of these cleanse diets really AREN’T THAT HEALTHY OR GOOD FOR YOU!

You really thinking drinking juice for a week is that great for you? All you are consuming is a ton of carbs in the form of SUGAR!

That isn’t healthy!

But when I tell people that cleanse diets AREN’T healthy, I usually get a response like, “Well I saw a cleanse diet by Dr. Oz!”

Dr. Oz….Usually I would have a rant against him, but in this case…Well I actually kind of like him.

When they say that to me, I usually say, “Have you looked at the difference between your FAD cleanse and Dr. Oz’s?”

The Dr. Oz cleanse is basically like eating just a super clean all natural diet!

It isn’t juice with cayenne pepper! It is chicken and veggies. It is just SUPER CLEAN NATURAL FOODS!

If you want a TRUE cleanse, you don’t need to do some crazy diet that cuts out all but one food group! Just eat whole natural foods that aren’t processed at all!

Or you know what…maybe even add in some intermittent fasting…Now fasting a bit…that IS truly good for your body!

Oh but wait….you aren’t doing a cleanse to be healthy? No…you are doing the cleanse because your friend supposedly lost 10lbs in one week?!?

Oh well then of course do the cleanse! It must be the magic pill for weight loss!

NOT!

Cleanse diets might help you lose a bit of weight, but the second you stop the cleanse, do you really think you are going to maintain the weight loss?

You haven’t changed your normal daily eating habits so how do you think you are going to keep that lost weight off?

YOU AREN’T GOING TO!

So why waste a week of your life on a completely miserable diet only to lose weight that you will probably gain back in less than two days when you return to your old eating habits?

DON’T!

There is no quick weight loss solution. If you want to lose weight, eat clean whole, natural foods. Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and meat. (Shoot I would even say a well-balanced diet of vegetables and meat, which is completely the opposite of some of those fruit and sugar-laden cleanses!)

If you want to truly lose weight, you need to start a diet you can maintain for more than a week.

And if you are completely and utterly set on doing some sort of “cleanse” go super strict the first couple of weeks on your diet. Eat only vegetables and meat.

Then maybe after those two weeks of super clean eating, add back in a few healthy treats…like fruits or maybe a glass of wine or some dark chocolate or a little full-fat dairy here and there.

The point is that these fad cleanses aren’t healthy AND they don’t truly help you lose weight. If you want to be “clean” and lose weight, your only solution is to eat whole natural foods.

Even Dr. Oz says so!

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